Newspapers – The Terminal UI Problem

Perhaps the problem is that the UI stays with you like a bad burrito...

Yesterday morning I sat at the counter at Puffins Restraurant in Millbury having a wonderful plate of Eggs Latin, and as I struggled to read The Worcester Telegram while eating, I realized the problem with newspapers in print: the User Interface is pathetic.

Here are just a few of the UI problems:

  • The newsprint is too thin – trying to fold the paper into something you can handle with one hand is virtually impossible.
  • Ink stained fingers – it used to be a sign of a well read person. Now it’s a sign of someone who doesn’t get their information in an efficient manner.
  • Page jumps – In order to read the stuff on the front page, I was forced to dive back into the back page, plus a couple other pages.  On the web, I have a back button.  In print, I have to get all WWE on the thing to bend it to my will.
  • Poor categorization – I’m not necessarily interested in all the news, just the parts I want.  On the web, I can easily have access to most if not all the days news from a single homepage.  Here I have to wade through all the days happenings, for better or worse, because its so…linear.
  • Recyling – I left the paper on the front seat of my wife’s car.  She came in screaming at me that I had to remove my junk and return her car to her the way I left it.  It was as though I’d left a puddle of toxic waste there.  The problem here is that the delivery mechanism is obsolete for anything other then lining the cat litter box the minute your done reading it.

I’m pretty much done with newspapers and newspaper technology, at least for a while.  I grow tired of chronicling the demise of an industry and instead choose to look forward.  ‘Tis a sad day when a boy whose dreams were of newsrooms, deadlines and worldly old copy editors walks away in disgust.

As my grandfather watched the death of his trade (he was a linotype operatator), I watch the entire industry crumble.  But fear not, in time it will be reinvented…

6 Replies to “Newspapers – The Terminal UI Problem”

  1. Mark,

    As a former newspaper editor and reporter myself, I too lament the end of the print newspaper era. I completely agree with you: Newspapers have yet to invent an easier UI that can rival the Web for finding and digesting content quickly.

    Unfortunately, gathering and publishing news is still being done by corporations using a very outdated methodology. Twitter is a good example of a way news can be disseminated quickly and more efficiently, yet very few organizations have figured out a way to handle this type of communication. Even the TV stations – once the bastion of live event coverage – are lagging in this day of Internet immediacy.

    Anyway, great post. Just wanted to tell you that you’re right on.

    – Stephen

  2. Mark,

    I agree that newspapers are going the way of the dinosaur, and I get my news almost entirely from the Internet, but there are still some advantages that the traditional newspaper holds over using a laptop to access the newspaper’s web site:

    1. If you drop your newspaper, you’ll still be able to read it when you pick it up again.

    2. The traditional newspaper doesn’t make your lap sweaty. (Although, I guess there are certain types of newspapers that could…)

    3. Newspapers’ batteries don’t die; nor do they explode or catch on fire.

    4. When the news really pisses you off and you need a cathartic release, ripping up a newspaper is much easier and less expensive than doing the same with a laptop.

    5. If the power goes out or the network connection goes down, the newspaper still can be read.

    6. The news in the newspaper doesn’t change; the web site keeps updating (OK, that can be both a pro and a con).

    7. Silly Putty does not work on LCD’s.

    Jack

  3. @Stephen – yup, the immediacy of the Internet can’t be overlooked…

    @Jack – that’s a great counterpoint to the post. Unfortunately thought I have managed to catch a newspaper on fire while reading it…but not recently. And you’re right – throwing a laptop isn’t the same…

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